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Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Mihir's Top Reads of 2016

It does seem a bit weird to be posting these lists in January since almost everyone does them in December. I feel that our readers will forgive this idiosyncrasy of mine as I feel the start of the new year is a good time to reflect on the past one. Similar to last year I wasn’t able to review many of the titles I read but I did enjoy them a lot. The main reasoning for choosing these titles is the varied milieu of the plots, excellence in prose, characterization and the overall enjoyment they provided. And so without further ado, here are my 2016 top reads ...

Top Ten Reads for 2016:

1) The Killing Floor Blues by Craig Schaefer - The Killing Floor Blues is a book published in 2015, but I only managed to read it last year. This book IMHO is a perfect amalgamation of the urban fantasy and thriller genres. Think Prison Break mixed with a tad bit of Gladiator as well as a crime thriller. The Killing Floor Blues was an exhilarating read which catapulted it to the top of my list.

2) Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft Senlin Ascends was a surprising gem unearthed by SPFBO 2016. This weird mix of fantasy, steampunk and a lot more was the closest contender for the top spot. A fantastic read and one which made me a fan of Josiah Bancroft instantaneously

3) Dark Matter by Blake CrouchI’m a Blake Crouch fan since I happened upon his visceral gut punch of a story that was RUN. This book kind of broke new ground for him as it was a SF book and it had his trademark thriller twists. All in all a story that you MUST read and get yourself acquainted with one of the best thriller writers out there.

4) City Of Blades by Rob J. Bennett City Of Blades was the sequel to City Of Stairs which was my top choice for 2014. This sequel while focusing on a couple of different characters managed to further explore the complex backstory of the world while giving the readers a solid storyline that explores what is happening within. Can't wait to read how the author decides to end the story in City Of Miracles.

5) The Wheel Of Osheim by Mark LawrenceWhat do I say about Mark Lawrence, he’s been spectacularly gracing my lists since his debut and every year manages to give us a book that pushes the bar set by his previous titles. TWOO is not only the ending to his trilogy but also serves as a perfect capstone to the world introduced in his debut.

6) No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished by Rachel Aaron This series has been a personal favorite of mine and Rachel Aaron definitely knows how to mix things up. The 3rd book upends the series mightily and makes sure that this series remains a top favorite of mine.

7) Magic Binds by Ilona Andrews  This is the penultimate volume of the series and this volume managed to make the series ender an absolute ravishing option. With its breakneck pace and multiple plot twists (plus an option for a new Curran short story/novella) I can’t wait to see how it all ends in to 2017.

8) Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo  Crooked Kingdom is the sequel to Six Of Crows and one of the books that I was anticipating highly in 2016. This book doesn’t disappoint with its mix of high octane action, betrayals and a climax that left me hoping that the characters in this book get another book.

9) The Last Mortal Bond by Brian Staveley – The conclusion to The Chronicles Of The Unhewn Throne is an epic doorstopper of a book as well an epic conclusion to a trilogy. Brian Staveley’s debut was one which had its shining points but also had its faults. The sequel though was better but it didn’t make my year end lists, TLMB though is a stunner of a conclusion and makes me very very excited for Skullsworn (the standalone sequel).

10) Brotherhood Of The Wheel by R. S. Belcher – I’m a fan of R. S. Belcher after reading his Golgotha series. This new series of his manages to combine urban fantasy, cosmic horror, & highway mythology in a fascinating way. It intrigued me enough and also ties into his Nightwise books. This new volume introduced an intriguing cast of characters and I loved how the author managed to tie in a lot of mythology of the US highways and served a good horror story.

10) Those Below by Daniel Polansky  This duology is a very different take than what Dan Polansky has written previously but also deals with the usual epic fantasy tropes of humans, elves, & war. I loved how the author deliberately went against what convention dictated and ended the story in a gruesome yet appropriate manner. Those Below is a fantastic capstone to this two book series and I hope more readers check this out.

Honorable Mentions:
 - Wall Of Storms by Ken Liu
 - Saint’s Blood by Sebastien de Castell
 - The Guns Of The Empire by Django Wexler

Top Ten Debut Novels for 2016:

1) Senlin Ascends by Josiah Bancroft – Senlin Ascends is a 2013 debut that left me astounded with its ingenuity. Josiah Bancroft has written a mesmerizing story that defies genre and yet makes itself standout with the prose and characterization. Definitely a book that should be on everyone's reading lists.

2) The Wolf Road by Beth Lewis If not for Senlin Ascends, The Wolf Road would be my top-rated debut for 2016. This book combines a terrific protagonist, characterization and a dystopian setting to craft a story that is raw, dark and ultimately a story that will have the reader wanting more. More debuts should aspire to be such…

3) The Summer Dragon by Todd Lockwood This book was a surprise, most readers are well versed with Todd Lockwood due to his artistic talent. With this book, he proved that his talents run with the pen as well as the pencil. Combining traditional fantasy tropes with dragons, The Summer Dragon is a wonderful debut that manages to impress older as well as newer fantasy fans and for that reason it figures so high on my list.

4) The Forgetting Moon by Brian Lee Durfee I nearly missed this title but thanks to a smashing review by Rob over at SFFWorld brought it to my attention. This book is a humdinger of a debut, it focusses on a lot of cool epic fantasy staples like gods, large character cast, and an extensive magic system. I’ve become a fan of Brian Lee Durfee because of the twists that he inserted and the story he envisioned.

5) All The Birds In The Sky by Charlie Jane Anders ATBITS is a strange but deeply, engaging book. On one hand it deals with the paranormal and on the other it also deals with the growth of a child into an adult and all that it encompasses. This book while being a mishmash of genres is definitely one worth your time.

6) The Last Days of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp This was an interesting title, it combined horror as well as an autobiographical style by the protagonist. This book managed to combine dark comedy along with a ghost story and yet make it seem like a proper horror story.

7) Paternus by Dyrk Ashton – Dyrk Ashton’s debut is another hard one to classify. I got to read via the 2016 edition of SPFBO. This book while being urban fantasy is more like epic fantasy set in our world and kudos to the author for writing a story that takes into account most of the world’s mythologies and makes sense in a very convoluted way. Look out for my review soon and this book will be a top contender for the 2016 SPFBO title.

8) Hope and Red by Jon Skovron  Hope And Red is an interesting sword and sorcery debut that focusses on different settings rather than the usual medieval ones. I liked how the author managed to give a us a proper story showcasing the main characters’ growth from their childhood to their eventual adult avatars. Lastly technically this isn't a debut book for the author but it is his debut for adult oriented stories as all of his previous work has been YA related.

9) The Long Way Down by Craig Schaefer – The Long Way Down is an interesting debut, it introduced the readers to the world of Daniel Faust and while it had its foibles, it was still a debut that made itself noticed. This book does end on a big climax and sets up the world and series nicely.

10) The Star Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi  The Star Touched Queen is an intriguing debut and what caught my eye was that it dug deep into Indian mythology. I had previously read Roshani's short story The Vishkanya’s Choice and enjoyed it. With this book, Roshani gives us a story that while being a love story is also about a character discovering her world, is much more than what her horoscope prescribes.


Bob/Sally said...

Can't argue with City Of Blades, The Wheel Of Osheim, or The Last Mortal Bond - al awesome reads. I've heard so many good things about Brotherhood Of The Wheel that I'm going to have to check it out.

The Summer Dragon I'm curious about, but have so far avoided because of the maybe-YA tag associated with it, and All The Birds In The Sky was an DNF title for me, despite how much I admire Charlie Jane Anders.

The Reader said...

Hi Bob,

I think you might enjoy Todd Lockwood's debut as I initially shied away from it due to its generic blurb but Rob's review altered my mindset & I'm glad for that.

I understand why ATBITS could be a slightly diff novel, it bucks the trend but I certainly enjoyed it.

You should definitely give BOTW a shot, it's got its rough edges but the world and characters it sets up is very fascinating.


Melissa (My words and pages) said...

And several more books to add to my list that I need to pick up and find time to read. lol. Great list!


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